Cooking with a Disability: Mardiana's Story

Life as a disabled person in Indonesia is not easy. Mardiana, who suffers from spine abnormalities, was the object of constant ridicule and was made to believe that her disability was a curse. This greatly affected her self-esteem and she struggled to find her place in the community. It was the support from her parents that kept her going all those lonely years. As Mardiana got older, she found solace in the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) community in her area, where eventually she would meet her husband.

Life, it seems, was beginning to turn around for the better. Her husband’s small thriving concrete business was able to support the family while Mardiana, not one to sit around, supplemented the family’s income by selling phone chargers. Things were going well until COVID-19 threw a wrench into the works. Businesses across Indonesia were badly affected and Mardiana’s husband’s business was no exception as he could no longer operate it due to the government imposed lockdowns.

Initially, Mardiana enrolled in the R.I.S.E programme without any expectation nor did she come in with any sort of end goal in mind. She admitted that before starting R.I.S.E, she felt hopeless and frustrated about her family’s financial situation. It was the programme that helped her view life more optimistically as she applied the FLIP methodology to everyday scenarios. The technique is designed to help participants identify the good in any given circumstances and change their negative mindsets to a positive one. In addition, lessons from the Profiling module helped her to identify new business ideas she could pursue during the pandemic. Anchored by her interest in culinary, Mardiana settled on selling homemade doughnuts. She utilised the allowance saved up from the training as her initial capital to buy ingredients and immediately launched her business. Depending on the programme country, participants from the R.I.S.E programme are provided with an internet allowance for 6 months to help with their online training during the pandemic.

Positive reviews from friends and family only strengthened her determination to make the business a success. She started work on analysing potential target customers and created strategies on ways to approach them. Mardiana relied on social media to get the word out on her business and went one step further by partnering with a local traditional grocery shop. Her doughnuts were an instant success and sales quickly skyrocketed. Selling doughnuts has given her a stable source of income, but just as importantly, it has given her a sense of financial security. Now, Mardiana and her family are living comfortably. She takes pride in knowing that her business can help sustain her family during this difficult time.